ARTHUR LINGQUIST, 1889 - 1975
Written September 2005 by Patricia A. Condon, owner of the estate collection of the artist.
A special fascination lies in finding forgotten keepsakes tucked away for years - reminiscent of discovering musty old trunks full of nineteenth century clothing in our attic when we were kids. In this case, the discovery was oil canvases and watercolor paintings created by Arthur Lingquist in the first half of the twentieth century. Opening the boxes where these paintings were stored, was like opening Christmas presents. There they lay, one against the other, showing glimpses of warm color, tantalizing in variety, just waiting to be appreciated!
A man with a desire for adventure, Arthur Lingquist emigrated in 1910 from Sweden
to Boston, Massachusetts, with the dream of becoming a successful artist in the then flourishing art communities of Boston and Cape Ann. With no children, he and his wife Elsie would go off at every opportunity with picnic lunch in hand, one day to the windswept shore on Cape Ann, another to the striking majesty of the Vermont mountains, eager to capture their beauty. One can imagine the two connected in their silence, he lost in his art, she quietly knitting, appreciating his creativity.
He especially favored rural areas for his subject material. Many of his paintings depict old barns, farmhouses, and landscapes of Cape Ann, the Berkshires and more often Vermont. Some of his best work captures the light in contrast with snow, the mountains and sky. The winter scenes are rendered with soft outlines in shadow, surrounding primitive buildings frozen in midwinter slumber. Most often, a vibrant silence emits from his landscapes. Sometimes one can look past the Vermont hillsides into the quiet farms, the rundown houses, and the crusty, shadow darkened seaside views and feel the secretive, yet companionable presence behind them. Honest and traditional in style, they offer an invitation for the viewer to enter the time and place they express.
Because Lingquist was active in the Boston Business Mens’ Art Club, his work could be shown in exhibits throughout the city and its suburbs. Relatives recall the very dapper appearance of the artist and his enthusiasm for the receptions and exhibits. Some of these exhibitions took place in Gloucester at the North Shore Art Association and it was through this connection that Lingquist began spending summers at Rocky Neck where he painted with his better known contemporaries, Gruppe, Hibbard and Thieme. With artist groups he sojourned on painting visits to Vermont, Maine and western Massachusetts.
In 1955, the Lingquists returned to Sweden and the home of Elsie’s family. Arthur’s
paintings there begin to show a clear, aggressive style, not as evident in some of his earlier work. While living in Skara, Lingquist was featured in an article appearing in SKANSKADAGBLADET, a Swedish art news publication. The article is an extensive study of his life and skill as a landscape painter, accentuating the presence of Lingquists’ personality and moods in his art. Often keeping a quiet countenance, he might have been described as melancholy. However, on his better days, he showed a dry sense of humor. As his niece candidly stated, “Arthur was moody!” This was evident in some of his oils; farm scenes full of brooding darkness, or sunless streets captured at dusk. Some of this darkness shows in the deep shadows of otherwise sunny oils. But more prominent is his sensitivity to light in the various weather conditions and times of day. A green doorway, featured in the introductory brochure, exudes promise, an invitation to draw one into the subject. Almost every painting is accentuated by one area dramatizing light. His most powerful studies in oil and watercolor show clarity, openness and a balance of light and dark. These contrasts seem to parallel those of his life. Stark and lonely at times, then warm and beckoning, they express feelings of both isolation and peace.
Life in Sweden was not to Elsie’s liking, so in 1956 the Lingquists returned to the Boston area. Lingquist began to experiment in new artistic forms. As an anniversary gift for Elsie, he designed drawings in an oriental motif, (popular at that time), finished in gold leaf for a jewelry box. There are oriental style drawings showing exquisite detail and delicacy, a departure from his more open landscapes. Five are included in the author’s collection. Lingquist continued to paint landscapes, and still lifes, but enjoyed expanding to decorative design on furniture and wooden boxes.
About ten years later as Arthur’s health declined, he and Elsie went to live with his
nephew and his wife in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The Lingquist family cared for the couple until Arthur died in a local nursing home on December 9, 1975, an ironic last chapter for a man who in early life demonstrated such a strong sense of independence.
After Arthur’s death, Elsie was restless. A woman of strong will, likes and dislikes, she soon felt the need to leave the hospitality of the Lingquist family. She returned to the Boston area, living alone and out of touch with her family. Sometime later she was reunited with a nephew who cared for her affairs until she died in a nursing home.
When Elsie returned to Massachusetts, she took those paintings left to her from Arthur’s estate. They lay neglected for many years. Only in 1995 did it come to light that the collection was divided between the two nephews’ families. Arthur’s niece brought out the paintings left to her after the death of her husband. She began to sell them one or two at a time to friends in her community. One of those who purchased Lingquists’ work was my sister. When coming upon one of Arthur’s oils depicting a Vermont farm in the snow, I was stunned with its warmth and exacting detail. It gave me a clue as to what world follow: a collection of oil and watercolor paintings! These were in raw condition; unstretched, unframed, unclaimed and unknown. I knew that something should be done to reintroduce them to art lovers and the art world. I wanted to learn more about the artist! After many interviews with family and friends this desire has been realized. The discovery of Elsie’s family in the Boston area revealed a large body Lingquist’s work, also stored away and untouched. After two years I was able to acquire all of the residual estate including history of tours, awards, and exhibitions. The entire collection has been cataloged, photographed and a large number restored and framed.
The collection has been exhibited extensively in the New England area. My desire is to acquaint the art world with Lingquist’s work. Serious collectors have purchased his paintings, and an effort to publicize information about him has been an ongoing project.